The ‘scoop’ on great third places – ice cream shops


Remember the phrase many of us used to say as kids:

“I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ice cream.”

Well that phrase is as true today at the dawn of the 21st century as it ever has been since ice cream was first served to the public.  No matter one’s age, ice cream is a tasty delight enjoyed by nearly everyone. I know I am dating myself here, but when I was younger, Howard Johnson’s ruled the


world with its 28 flavors and orange-roof restaurants. Today, there are more flavors of ice cream than colors on an artist’s palette, with new yummy ones being invented all the time.

Variations of this third place land use can include gelato, yogurt, and custard shops.  A unique variation I found during a visit to Scotland were milk shake shops. In particular Shakebar in Stirling and three other Scottish cities  will make you a milk shake out of just about anything you can imagine. The choices are nearly endless, so you can make some intriguing (or gross) concoctions.


While not all ice cream shops are open year-round, many still serve as great third places for friends and family to gather. Often, on summer evenings their parking lot will be full of cars, bikes, and pedestrians gathered outside to enjoy a cool scoop or two at the end of the day.

Those ice cream shops that are open year-round, may not be as busy in the winter, but remain a great gathering spot. My personal favorite ice cream shop anywhere is the MSU Dairy Store in East Lansing. With unique flavors for each Big Ten (now 12) team, and oodles of other options, the MSU Dairy Store is a perfect third place in the Greater Lansing community.

While I personally prefer the independent or regional ice cream shops to the larger chains like Coldstone Creamery, Baskin Robbins, TCBY, Ben and Jerry’s or Dairy Queen, even those ice cream shops dotting the globe can offer third place attributes and ambiance.  The best ones have both indoor and outdoor seating options, wi-fi, and additional menu options.

As an urban planner, I find that those communities that have a variety of third place options to be the most culturally and socially vibrant and inspiring. Who wouldn’t want to be able to walk or bike down a street and have at your beckon a great coffee shop  or two, a bake shop cafe, a social library, a brewpub, bookstores, a farmers market, and ice cream shop for dessert? Sounds like dishing up a scoop of third placemaking heaven to me.

This entry was posted in bicycling, cities, Cuisine, culture, diversity, entertainment, food systems, fun, land use, placemaking, third places, tourism, urban planning, walking and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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